The holidays in 2020 will be unlike any other. The effects of isolation may make symptoms of depression or Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) even more pronounced. Being separated from loved ones and tradition may make “the most wonderful time of the year,” seem like the worst.
If you or a loved one are feeling down this holiday season, you are not alone. Feelings of depression and loneliness are quite common this time of year, across all age groups. The Centers for Disease Control has estimated that nearly 20% of people over the age of 55 experience some type of mental health concern, including depression, anxiety and bipolar disorder.
While feeling a certain amount of sadness is normal, especially if you are grieving the loss of a loved one who recently passed. The more severe signs of depression include:
If you or a loved one are struggling with any of these issues, it is recommended you seek professional help as soon as possible. You can start by talking to your regular physician, who may provide you with a referral for a psychiatrist, who can listen to your troubles and also prescribe medication that can help to ease your mind.
Holidays can be particularly difficult for seniors and there are several factors that can lead to holiday depression in the elderly:
Mourning Happy Memories and Tradition. Reminiscing about happier times, thinking about loved ones who are no longer with us, and thinking about what used to be can add to feelings of depression.
Limited Mobility. Losing the ability to move as freely as you had in the past can have a profound effect on the mind. Loss of mobility due to arthritis, injury, or quarantine can prevent you from participating in holiday celebrations the way you once could and diminishes the entire experience.
Loneliness. This is particularly difficult seniors who live alone which adds to feelings of isolation. Loneliness can be compounded when denied time traditionally spent with friends and family during the holidays, leading to the holiday blues.
Financial Stress. With the cost of living and health care on the rise many seniors are concerned about financial matters. While this can be a year-round problem, the feelings of anxiety can grow during the holidays due to added spending on gifts.
The best way to battle holiday depression in the elderly is by being connected. While this is harder than ever given the restrictions surrounding the pandemic being mindful is important. A little extra effort can go a long way. Here are a few ideas that can help connect you to your loved ones during the holidays even if visiting in person may not be possible.
Send Gifts. Sending cards or gifts is an easy way to let loved ones know that you’re thinking of them. Traditional home-baked goodies are always a hit. Have you picked up any hobbies or crafts during quarantine? Share some of your home made handy work with those you can’t visit in person. Of course if you are thinking about something store bought Amazon will deliver gifts directly to a loved one for you. It couldn’t get much easier than that.
Make Videos. Do you play an instrument? Record a song, record the kids or the grandkids singing jingle bells even if the “kids” are adults now. Share a video of yourself opening a gift sent by a loved one. Show off a new skill or hobby you picked up this year.
Share a Meal Remotely. Many holidays involve sitting around a table full of food. With zoom it is easy to share a meal and good conversation remotely with friends and family. You can compare your favorites and swap recipes.
Play Games. If you have a tradition of playing games, you can still do many of these activities remotely. Pictionary, Scattergories and many other games can be played over zoom. You can find a few ideas of games to play here.
Take a Walk. Due to the physical demands and psychological impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s been difficult for many of us to stay physically active. Go on a virtual group walk through your neighborhood to work off the food and look at the lights.
When we are connected and sharing, we are able unburden our minds and relieve stress. It’s easy to get distracted and disconnect during the holidays, especially from our senior loved ones, but it is more important now than ever to reconnect in order to help ensure that no one we love struggles unnecessarily.
Ty Strahl is the Spokane areas leading Certified Senior Advisor (CSA). Her job is to help navigate the many aspects of aging and to help seniors who are in transition to find the right solutions for their individual needs.